Oklahoma State's AJ Ferrari against Iowa's Jacob Warner (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Whenever the fall rolls around (or perhaps late summer if we're really lucky), DI schedules start to trickle out. While perusing new schedules, my eyes gravitate towards each team's non-conference duals. Why, you ask? Quite simply, they don't have to wrestle them! Some of the smaller conferences wrestle all of their fellow league members, while the Big Ten has their conference slate set by the league office on a rotating basis. For most teams, a large chunk of their schedule is decided without their own input (at least the opponents).
Looking at a team's non-conference schedule can tell you a lot about the program in the upcoming year. If it's loaded with top-25 teams, maybe the staff feels like this is â€œtheir team,â€ the one to break through and have a big year. If not, perhaps the coaches think their squad is not ready for a challenge. Conversely, maybe a young team needs top-caliber opponents, while a veteran group that's battle-tested would benefit from a lesser schedule.
Some non-Big Ten powers have to be creative with their non-conference matches. With a loaded Big Ten intra-conference schedule, those schools may not feel it's necessary to add a Missouri or Virginia Tech. And now that you look at their 2021-22 sched, those two schools face each other.
After virtually thumbing through all of the DI schedules, we've identified 19 of those top non-conference duals to watch. There are a variety of reasons why these duals have been picked. Some have great individual matchups, others have long-standing rivalries, while some have an interesting backstory or take place at a unique venue.
Below are the 19 duals to watch, along with key matchups. These matchups are ones that include top-15 wrestlers from each team. Rankings are InterMat's most current in dual format.
November 7th - #14 North Carolina at #8 Ohio State
149 lbs: #1 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) vs. #5 Zach Sherman (North Carolina)
We'll get more into this dual later as it will be our â€œDual of the Week,â€ but this is a great way to start off the year with the #8 dual team (Ohio State) taking on #14. As you'll see later, Ohio State will face off with some of the heavy hitters from the ACC in some strong non-conference competition. Aside from the bout at 149, we should see where true freshmen Spencer Moore (UNC) is at 125 and Andre Gonzales (tOSU) is at 133.
November 13th - #3 Oklahoma State at Stanford
165 lbs: #1 Shane Griffith (Stanford) vs. #6 Travis Wittlake (Oklahoma State)
Stanford kicks off dual competition in the Rob Koll-era with a banger, as the Cardinal takes on #3 Oklahoma State. The 165 lb bout is a headliner and features a pair of returning All-Americans that last squared off at the 2020 Southern Scuffle. There's also the potential for a couple of excellent bouts at 141 and 149 lbs. Oklahoma State could send out a pair of true freshmen at those two weights (Carter Young/Victor Voinovich), which are spots that Stanford features studs (Real Woods/Jaden Abas).
November 17th - #14 North Carolina at #9 Nebraska
141 lbs: #6 Chad Red Jr. (Nebraska) vs. #14 Kizhan Clarke (North Carolina)
149 lbs: #5 Zach Sherman (North Carolina) vs. #13 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska)
There aren't any All-American versus All-American matches in the UNC/Nebraska dual, but there are plenty of intriguing bouts. By this time, Kizhan Clarke's ranking may have risen, as he had a minimal resume from 2021. Also, at 157 lbs is a strong matchup between returning national champion, Austin O'Connor (UNC) and Peyton Robb (Nebraska). This could be the second dual for freshman Gavin Kane (UNC) against a returning All-American as he should have Ethan Smith against Ohio State and Mikey Labriola here.
November 19th - #8 Ohio State at #10 Virginia Tech
125 lbs: #8 Sam Latona (Virginia Tech) vs. #15 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State)
149 lbs: #1 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) vs. #8 Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech)
174 lbs: #4 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) vs. #6 Ethan Smith (Ohio State)
184 lbs: #9 Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech) vs. #11 Kaleb Romero/Rocky Jordan (Ohio State)
285 lbs: #7 Tate Orndorff (Ohio State) vs. #15 Nathan Traxler (Virginia Tech)
Ohio State against Virginia Tech has a history of fireworks. The last time these schools met, a freshman Sammy Sasso was stunned and pinned. While a Sasso loss by fall is unlikely, if anyone could do it, it would be Bryce Andonian, right? Up at 174 lbs, we should see Mekhi Lewis' first significant test at 174 lbs. The 2019 NCAA champion was limited in the the tournament last season and did not place. While the 285 lbers have never met, Nathan Traxler is 3-0 career against Tate Orndorff's brother, Tanner, while at Stanford.
November 20th - #3 Oklahoma State at #17 Minnesota
157 lbs: #5 Brayton Lee (Minnesota) vs. #14 Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State)
285 lbs: #1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota) vs. #11 Austin Harris (Oklahoma State)
We don't anticipate Gable Steveson being in the lineup for every single dual for Minnesota this year, but a home dual against #3 Oklahoma State...I'd expect to see him there. On paper, this dual doesn't have as many high-profile matches as you would think. Still, there should be plenty of fireworks whenever these traditional powers clash.
November 20th - Stanford at #11 Cornell
141 lbs: #1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) vs. #8 Real Woods (Stanford)
Less than a month into the new season and we get the â€œRob Koll Bowl.â€ His former team, led by Mike Grey, travels out west for an intriguing dual meet. As stated with Gable, Yianni Diakomihalis may not be in the lineup day-in and day-out for the Big Red. That being said, if possible, he's ready when they wrestle Koll's new team, right? If so, a bout with Real Woods is intriguing.
December 4th - #10 Virginia Tech at #2 Missouri
133 lbs: #5 Korbin Myers (Virginia Tech) vs. #10 Matt Schmitt (Missouri)
174 lbs: #4 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) vs. #15 Peyton Mocco (Missouri)
184 lbs: #9 Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech) vs. #13 Jeremiah Kent (Missouri)
285 lbs: #13 Zach Elam (Missouri) vs. #15 Nathan Traxler (Virginia Tech)
Virginia Tech and Missouri have clashed semi-regularly as both have some difficulty getting Big Ten schools on their schedule. These perennial top-ten squads could be in for a battle as there are four clashes between top-15 opponents on tap. Another one that could be interesting is at 149 as Andonian will likely see freshman Josh Edmond. Two-time All-American Brock Mauller was in the rankings at the weight, but appears to be on track for a redshirt. Based on a 10-0 campaign in 2021, there may not be a significant dropoff from Mauller to Edmond. I'd expect this to come down to the big boys as Zach Elam and Nathan Traxler could be in a winner-takes-all situation.
December 5th - #1 Iowa at Iowa State
149 lbs: #10 Ian Parker (Iowa State) vs. #11 Max Murin (Iowa)
157 lbs: #1 David Carr (Iowa State) vs. #6 Kaleb Young (Iowa)
It's perhaps the best in-state rivalry in college wrestling. Well, it hasn't been too much of a rivalry lately, as Iowa has taken the last every meeting since 2004. Excluding a barnburner in 2018-19, the Cyclones haven't been able to score more than ten points in this CyHawk dual since 2009-10. However, 149 shakes out for Iowa State, expect a good match between either Ian Parker or Jarrett Degen and Max Murin. David Carr used a win over Kaleb Young to prove he was ready for primetime early in the 2019-20 season, his redshirt freshman year.
December 12th - #5 NC State at Appalachian State
149 lbs: #2 Tariq Wilson (NC State) vs. #9 Jonathan Millner (Appalachian State)
Even though there are a few dates on NC State's schedule before the Appalachian State dual on December 12th, this could be the first real test for Tariq Wilson up at 149 lbs. Conversely, this is probably a dual circled on Jonathan Millner's calendar, as it will provide an opportunity for him to fly up the rankings, were he to win. While the actual results of this, from a team standpoint, shouldn't be that close, App State does have seven wrestlers included in the preseason rankings, so there are plenty of good matchups looming.
December 12th - #20 Pittsburgh at #8 Ohio State
165 lbs: #4 Jake Wentzel (Pittsburgh) vs. #10 Carson Kharchla (Ohio State)
Ohio State's final ACC tilt of the year sees them face neighboring Pittsburgh. Before getting to 165 lbs, former Buckeye Elijah Cleary is expected to be in the Panther lineup at 157 lbs. That's not the only familiar face in this dual. Pittsburgh has Buckeye great Luke Pletcher on the coaching staff and even their head coach, Keith Gavin, spent time training at the Ohio RTC. Now on to the excellent matchup at 165 lbs. By this time, Carson Kharchla should have seen significant mat time and could be ranked higher than his current tenth position. He's a guy who's known for his freestyle prowess, but his opponent, Jake Wentzel, is absolutely brutal on the mat. It will be an excellent â€œstyles-clashâ€ situation and could end up as an NCAA quarterfinal matchup.
December 19th - #23 Purdue vs. Iowa State at Humboldt HS
157 lbs: #1 David Carr (Iowa State) vs. #9 Kendall Coleman (Purdue)
There's a fun backstory behind this dual as both head coaches, Tony Ersland of Purdue and Kevin Dresser of Iowa State, are graduates of Humboldt high school. This dual was supposed to have been held last year, but was delayed due to Covid and the Big Ten scheduling. Expect a rabid crowd in attendance as an always tough Purdue team will look to come into Iowa and spoil the fun. The most attractive match in this dual will take place at 157 lbs as defending national champion, David Carr, is expected to get tested by Kendall Coleman. The two met in 2019 at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, when both were freshmen, and Carr prevailed, 4-0.
January 3rd - #6 Michigan vs. #7 Arizona State at Austin, TX
165 lbs: #7 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State) vs. #11 Cameron Amine (Michigan)
197 lbs: #7 Patrick Brucki (Michigan) vs. #8 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State)
285 lbs: #2 Mason Parris (Michigan) vs. #4 Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State)
What a tilt on a neutral site between the preseason #6 team (Michigan) and #7 teams. The back half of this dual is absolutely stacked. We've got our eye on the heavyweight bout, which features a pair of big men with international resumes. Mason Parris is a Junior World Champion in freestyle, while Cohlton Schultz won a Junior silver medal in Greco and has already made Senior teams. Parris was a national runner-up in 2021 and Schultz settled into fourth place, but the duo did not meet. The same can be said for the 165 lbers who were slated to meet in the seventh-place bout in St. Louis. Anthony Valencia did not compete due to injury and Cameron Amine took seventh.
January 9th - #5 NC State at Princeton
125 lbs: #2 Patrick Glory (Princeton) vs. #10 Jakob Camacho (NC State)
With Princeton having to sit out the 2021 season, they didn't get to prove themselves last season and, therefore may be ranked a little lower than their abilities may warrant. By the time this dual rolls around, they should have sufficient time to prove themselves and push more wrestlers into the rankings. As it is, the 125 lb bout is a good one. These two were on the same half of the NCAA bracket in 2020, but never got to meet as the tournament was canceled. Now, they come into the year with rankings that match their 2020 seeding. Both schools should have young, talented 197 lbers (Luke Stout - Princeton and Isaac Trumble - NC State) that could make for an interesting match. Also, an excellent match at 157 lbs could be in the works. The Tigers have #8 Quincy Monday at the weight. As of press time, NC State is still mulling over whether or not to have veteran Daniel Bullard drop to 157. Bullard is a three-time national qualifier that is currently ranked #17 at 165.
January 9th - Iowa State at #7 Arizona State
149 lbs: #6 Kyle Parco (Arizona State) vs. #10 Ian Parker (Iowa State)
157 lbs: #1 David Carr (Iowa State) vs. #4 Jacori Teemer (Arizona State)
Can we go ahead and give Arizona State an award for the best out-of-conference schedule? Whomever emerges as the starter at 149 will get a test from Kyle Parco. With an offseason in the ASU room, after transferring from Fresno State, expect an even better version of Parco, who stunned the wrestling world in March with his sixth-place finish at nationals, despite a #17 seed. One of the matches I've been looking forward to most is set to go down at 157 between Carr and Jacori Teemer. The pair met in 2019-20 and it went in Carr's favor, 4-1.
January 14th - #7 Arizona State at #20 Pittsburgh
133 lbs: #7 Micky Phillipi (Pittsburgh) vs. #9 Michael McGee (Arizona State)
165 lbs: #4 Jake Wentzel (Pittsburgh) vs. #7 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State)
197 lbs: #2 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh) vs. #8 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State)
Even though Micky Philipi is still searching for his first NCAA All-American honor, he's been one of the top 133 lbers in the nation. He is responsible for one of two career losses for Daton Fix. Philippi has been seeded in the top-five at nationals on three occasions and lost in the Round of 12 both times he's competed at the NCAA Tournament. By this time, his ranking may be higher than his current placement of seventh. A bout against, Michael McGee is another interesting contrast of styles. It appeared that Jake Wentzel and Anthony Valencia may have been on a collision course on the bottom half of the 2021 NCAA brackets, as Valencia was looking as good as ever. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in the quarters, which limited him in that bout. But, now we get that match!
January 23rd - #21 Oregon State at #13 Wyoming
157 lbs: #12 Jacob Wright (Wyoming) vs. #15 Hunter Willits (Oregon State)
This is a meeting between two â€œsneaky-goodâ€ dual teams. Oregon State got an infusion of talent from four transfers with prior NCAA experience. That's to go along with six returning wrestlers with NCAA experience. What will happen in year two under Chris Pendleton is a balanced dual lineup with no hole. Wyoming is in the same boat as they return seven national qualifiers, including the last six spots in the lineup. The Cowboys had an excellent Big 12 tournament as four of their entries made the conference finals and five finished in the top three. While 157 lbs is the marquee match, there will be plenty of entertaining scraps.
February 12th - #1 Iowa vs. #3 Oklahoma State at Arlington, TX
133 lbs: #2 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) vs. #4 Austin DeSanto (Iowa)
157 lbs: #6 Kaleb Young (Iowa) vs. #14 Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State)
165 lbs: #2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. #6 Travis Wittlake (Oklahoma State)
184 lbs: #7 Dakota Geer (Oklahoma State) vs. #15 Nelson Brands (Iowa)
197 lbs: #1 AJ Ferrari (Oklahoma State) vs. #3 Jacob Warner (Iowa)
285 lbs: #3 Tony Cassioppi (Iowa) vs. #11 Austin Harris (Oklahoma State)
Of course, this bout will be featured at Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, alongside a Senior-level freestyle dual between Team USA and Iran. At this time, we're not sure whether Daton Fix would wrestle for the American team or Oklahoma State, but if he's with the Cowboys, a clash with Austin DeSanto is a must-watch. The 165 and 197 lb bouts have the feel of a potential NCAA semi or even finals. As mentioned above, OSU could be young at 141 and 149, which could be fun matchups, as well. At the end of the day, it's the two most storied programs in the history of college wrestling. Throw the names out, it's Iowa/Oklahoma State, which is always fun.
February 12th - #2 Missouri at #7 Arizona State
133 lbs: #9 Michael McGee (Arizona State) vs. #10 Matt Schmitt (Missouri)
157 lbs: #4 Jacori Teemer (Arizona State) vs. #10 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri)
165 lbs: #5 Keegan O'Toole (Missouri) vs. #7 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State)
197 lbs: #5 Rocky Elam (Missouri) vs. #8 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State)
285 lbs: #4 Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State) vs. #11 Zach Elam (Missouri)
This has the potential to be the second non-conference bout featuring a top-eight opponent for the Sun Devils (and that doesn't include whomever they face at the Collegiate Duals). The results of this dual will surely have an impact on NCAA seeding as many of these probable are ranked close to each other and this matchup takes place on the second-to-last weekend of the season.
February 20th - #6 Michigan at Central Michigan
141 lbs: #3 (133) Stevan Micic (Michigan) vs. #12 Dresden Simon (Central Michigan)
285 lbs: #2 Mason Parris (Michigan) vs. #12 Matt Stencel (Central Michigan)
The in-state rivalry between Michigan and Central Michigan (The Bloodround Podcast Bowl) is renewed after a year away, because of the Wolverine's Big Ten-only schedule in 2021. Of late, when these teams meet, you have to look at their big men. Heavyweight Mason Parris and Matt Stencel now have an extensive history against one another. During the 2018-19 season, the two met three times and none of those contests lasted longer than a period. Stencel took two of the three bouts, including one in the NCAA Round of 12. A year later, they met three times, with the sophomore Parris winning all three via decision. Since Stencel is a super-senior, this year will be the last time they meet in college.